Monday, September 3, 2018

APSA 2018: Boston Rocks and So Does Poli Sci

The Convention center had security theater... not great.
For my entire career (and until 2020, when the timing changes), the American Political Science Association meeting has meant the end of summer and the start of a new year of teaching (minus the sabbatical year or two).  This year, it was in Boston, and I can't remember Boston ever been so terrific.  Sure, I felt lost since I hadn't re-read Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels to get my bearings, but once I walked around a bit, I remembered enough from previous APSAs (including the march of the bruised heel in 2002) here and recent visits, I could make the most of it.

I didn't go to many panels, but the one I chaired on Alliances that got me thinking.  Indeed, one of the panelists, Sara Berg Moeller, who I met last year, kept directing the audiences' questions to me as I did go to South Korea this summer.  Jeez, May feels like a long time ago.  I was able to use a bit of what I had learned to shake things up--that South Korea used to view US troops in their country as a way to ensure that the US keeps its commitment if North KOrea attacked but now those troops are seen as restraining Trump who might otherwise risk war.  This exemplified the Trump effect on the allies--usually, an ally fears either being abandoned or being entrapped (fighting a war they don't want to fight).  The joy of Trump--US allies now feel both fears at the same time. The discussion also pushed me to develop a new research idea that bridges the last two projects--thinking about alliances but in an Asian context.

Post hackathon awards
my table at the hackathon
I did do something I have never done before: participate in a hackathon.  Nope, we didn't hack computer networks, but instead tried to hack Poli Sci--can we figure out ways to improve our discipline for women and people of color.  I was assigned to "Men as Allies" group and to co-lead the discussion on inclusive networking.  We came up with a bunch of ideas as did the other groups.  How will I change my behavior?  I have gotten in the habit recently of using the "Women Also Know Stuff" database to find women who do civil-military relations, and invite them for coffee/beer at the conference hotel bar to chat about their work.  I have met a number of sharp young women, and have had very productive conversations about their work and mine.  They are far smarter on the recent literature and can help me connect my ideas to recent debates, and I have give heaps of unsolicited advice.  However, the folks at my hackathon table pointed out that one on one's and bars are both intimidating and can produce potentially problematic dynamics. So, I will try to invite a few women to meet at the same time, so that they can network with each other and have less fear about, well, me.  I won't avoid the conference bar because it is a less threatening common space than most others--and it usually has chairs. 

 The best part of APSA, of course, was hanging with old friends.  Last year, it was the grad school cohort. This year?  My fellow escapees--those who were my best pals in Lubbock and have now voyaged elsewhere.  And appropriately, we voyaged... across Boston Harbor to Charleton to see a WWII Destroyer, Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution. Because Mrs. Spew and I had visited this area last year, I knew of a great beer garden nearby.  The food was once again amazing.

Indeed, that was a key theme--thanks to some old twitterfightclub friends, I had referrals to great restaurants that did not disappoint.  Only disappointment was discovering this place Saturday evening--closed:

But Boston was mostly beautiful and tasty.  I hope we return here more often (SF is overplayed).

1 comment:

L'il Steve said...

1) Nice summary!
2) Hey, look, there I am manning a WWII anti-aircraft gun.